29 August 2005

What is Scripture?

In class last Thursday, I gave a few options for "reading" the bible. In short, we asked the question "what is this ancient text?".

Option 1.“The Bible is a rule-book. It is the constitution of the church. It is the law that governs the body of Christ. Just as the United States Constitution governs the democracy of this country so the Bible governs the protocol, and form of the restored New Testament Church.”

Option 2.“The Bible is a collection of divine timeless principles. If you know the right tools, possess the right theology, you can mine the Bible for many timeless truths. You want to know about self-esteem, turn to the back and find related topics. You want to know about money, planning, family life—it’s all in there, mine the pages for the golden nuggets of truth you seek and whola…you’ll strike gold.”

Option 3.But what if Scripture was truly adored as the unfolding story of God at work in the totality of Creation? What if Scripture is the holy story, with God as the main actor, working at every turn and twist to redeem a Creation he called good from the beginning?


Interact with the previous three options. Good/bad, strengths and weaknesses. Share experiences from growing up in the various churches you represent, etc.


22 August 2005

Discovering the New Testament

I will be teaching a religion course at Rochester College this fall entitled "Discovering the New Testament." This blog will be one avenue for candid discussion regarding faith, politics, life, and following Jesus.

To the students of the class-here is the class description from the syllabus:

This class will seek to allow the world of the New Testament to absorb the world we find ourselves in. The class will discuss the basic features of the Christian faith as presented in the New Testament. Special attention will be given to the Gospel in relation to mission, discipleship, poverty, salvation, trinity, and the church. The class will emphasize the uniqueness of the four Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John), the various writings of St. Paul and St. John. On occasion, the class will attempt to discuss the Christian faith in light of postmodernity and major world religions. It is my desire to capture the students’ imagination and appreciation for the story of Jesus (the Gospels) and the story of the Jesus Movement (the Church). I understand the level of exposure to Christianity will be of great diversity. I will do whatever I can to assist you in making this class a powerful experience. Not only am I committed to providing pertinent information, but it is my desire for each of you to experience transformation.


Now...what is your experience with the Christian faith? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Harmful? Transformative? Fire away. Remember to be kind and respectful as we are all coming from completely different experiences.

18 August 2005

The students at Rochester College are now starting to fill up the campus. Some of the athletes are back for conditioning and training. The R.A.'s and their assistants are getting ready for the ever crazy job.

This week I was a part of a worship conference with Michael Card and a leadership conference with Randy Harris (Teaches theology at ACU). The students, however, stole the show. Many in our churches lament at the prospect of the future of our churches.

I can tell you that after 48 hours with some of these college students, the future (as well as the present) is in good hands. We had students from High Church experiences who are mature enough to appreciate the simplicity of a capella music. We had a handful of legit charismatics who, though often frustrated, are willing to share their experiences with those of us who've never heard the audible voice of God. I try to tell them that "hearing God's voice" or "seeing God's face" is not something I am consistently praying for in my life. Have we read our Bibles?

We have students with little to no religious background. Ultimately, these are the students I want to gravitate to. Not primarily because I want to seem the move from lost to saved, though I do. But because I believe many people who are indifferent to the Christian faith, or those who've outright rejected it have done so because they've been presented an counterfeit gospel.


When I was an undergrad student I rarely sought out the student who was "the other" or "invisible"--as a minister and teacher I hope I can embody what I see in the Gospels--Jesus "eating his way through his ministry" with the least; the ones on the fringe (thanks to my friend Eric for that quote).

Who are we inviting to sit at our tables?

12 August 2005

This is from Anne Lamott's book "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith"--I find it extremely appropriate considering the pain and suffering of so many around me. Some I watch suffer from a distance, some all too close; all too personal.

It's magic to see Spirit, largely because it's so rare. Mostly you see the masks and the holograms that the culture presents as real. You see how you're doing in the world's eyes, or your family's, or--worst of all--yours, or in the eyes of people who are doing better than you--much better than you--or worse. But you are not your bank account, or your ambition. You're not the cold clay lump you leave behind when you die. You're not your collection of walking personality disorders. You are Spirit, you are love, and even though it is hard to believe sometimes, you are free. You're here to love, and to be loved, freely. If you find out next week that you are terminally ill on this bus--what will matter are memories of beauty, that people loved you, and that you loved them.


God is making all things new. God will make all things new.

08 August 2005


Every Sunday in our third service (Mosaic) at church we do communion ala the Catholic Church. Men and women of different backgrounds and experiences come forward to recieve the body and blood of Christ. Sometimes the other ministers and I pray with the body as they come; sometimes we simply affirm them with a smile or hug.

Yesterday, I held the sacraments as each person came forward. One face was old-- wisdom and hardship were ever present. Another face was timid, unsure of what exactly was happening. Yet another face, much darker than the other two, had a sense of solidarity about her. It was almost as if she felt safe to be in the presence of other seekers and followers of Jesus. Several more faces came to recieve the meal. Each one bringing a different gift; each person a different story.

Christ is found on the faces of those around us. I see so many faces everyday that I get numb to this. But there they are, unavoidable.

The waitress at the restaraunt. The man changing the oil in my car. At first glance it is just another person trying to survive the rat race. A second glance reminds me of a different reality.

I know there's much to be said about learning a person's name. But I also think there's more to be said about simply seeing a person as just that. Not a way to get ahead, get service, get a response, etc. But a person who somehow, no matter how messy it might be, bears the image of a loving creator.

05 August 2005

Gospeled People

The early church was a splintered group. Some were Jews who’d embraced Jesus as Messiah. To be followers of Jesus was to be fully Jewish. Others were Diaspora Jews (raised Jewish in Greek settings) who had embraced Jesus as the bridge between the Greek and Jewish world. And then there were Roman citizens with little connection to the Jewish faith who, by the power of God, came to believe “Jesus is Lord.”

The two great threats to the early church may resonate with our current struggle: Empire and Religious tradition. To say “Jesus is Lord” meant “Caesar is not.” It was a radical confession that reoriented one’s allegiance. Joining the church meant all other commitments were considered less or even obsolete. Second, religious tradition threatened the witness of the early church. In the early church tradition is the living faith of the dead, while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. In all things, Torah or Scripture, temple or church, children of God must remember that we worship a living God. This might change the way we read Paul, he is a missionary not a systematic theologian who lives in the ivory tower.

In reading all four gospels, it is crucial to remember that we read in order to know the author. We read the gospels as we look through a telescope: by looking in it we can see the world in ways we never imagined possible.

We can be a church who allows the gospel to read us. Let’s allow these four gospels tell us what to think, feel, and experience. Let’s permit these gospels to set the agenda for faith, evangelism, worship, and community. These gospels were written to sustain a church already in existence, already struggling with their identity as followers of Jesus. May these ancient words speak a fresh word into our open lives.

03 August 2005

Some Confessions About God's Dream

God's dream for the world is not the church. At least, I hope this is not the case. History has proven that the church, though there are some exceptions, has a track record of dirtying the water and polluting the pure vision of God's Kingdom. The church often offers a counterfeit gospel.

God's dream for the world is not the Bible. For those of us recovering fundamentalists, we need to repent of "bibliolatry"--worship of the bible (and our interpretation of it) over the God of the Universe and the Christ who embodies this God. We use the Bible as a telescope--by looking in it and through it we are pointed toward the reality of God.

God's dream for the world is not a particular political party. Take a deep breath. God is not Republican or Democrat. To marry one political ideology is to betray power of the gospel and the nature of Jesus' incarnation. To declare Jesus as Lord in the ancient world meant, in effect, you were declaring Caesar not to be Lord.

God's dream for the world is not one particular tribe. The Catholic Church is not the answer. The Protestant Church is not the answer. The fundamentalist churches in denial of being Protestant are not the answers. It is time for us to pool our thinking, theology, and efforts and cease to view each other as the enemy. Fighting battles within the Christian army is a luxury of the 1950's--this simply is not the world we live in.

God's dream for the world is Jesus of Nazareth. And though we struggle to understand him in light of the church, Bible, politics, and religious tribes he is the author of our faith. In him, we understand God as father, our mission in the world, the nature of suffering, and the conviction that God's future is greater than anything we could ever imagine.

02 August 2005

Mission or Maintenance?

How might one go about describing the difference between an institutionally minded body of Christ followers and a Kingdom oriented fellowship? Anything I write from here on out out will be surface and painting with broad strokes.

1. First, there is a difference between operation from an allegiance to the witness of Christ in history and the church as it has become. The Gopsel is God among us not Christianity.

2. Institutional loyalty is about preservation of power, status, and influence whereas Kingdom disciples are passionate about embodied truth, confession, authenticity, reconciliation and justice. This is what I mean by "mission" or "maintenance." Are our churches doing mere maintenance (changing Sunday morning around, rearranging furntiure on the Titanic) or are our churches living missionally--equipping the saints to be ministers in the numerous settings they'll find themselves in.

3. Institutional loyalty is usually the most dangerous place to be--the darkness has done its best work in institutions (Racism, oppressive governments, etc.). Bodies of people committed to the in-breaking Kingdom are not afraid to speak truth to the powers that be.

John York and Rubel Shelly has been preaching on this topic this summer at Woodmont Hills Family of God in Nashville, TN (www.woodmont.org). See the resources section to listen to the sermons. This is good for those who want to see missional church theology in a Church of Christ context. At least, what it might look like on paper or sound like in a preaching/teaching moment.